Ellie Ames 09 November 2023

Councillors ‘powerless and penniless’ on clean air

Councillors ‘powerless and penniless’ on clean air image
Image: 1000 Words / Shutterstock.com

Elected members do not believe that councils have the powers or budgets to make meaningful change on air quality, research has found.

Polling by Survation found that while 78% of councillors in English towns and cities believe that local authorities have a duty to tackle air pollution, most said they lack the necessary powers (52%) and funding (72%).

According to 81% of urban councillors, there should be tougher guidelines on air quality to match recommendations from the World Health Organisation.

Polling found some political polarisation, with 23% of Conservative councillors supporting charging people for using polluting cars, compared to 73% of elected Labour members.

A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) on the survey said councils no longer have adequate budgets to regulate and enforce environmental rules or to hire staff to lead on environmental issues.

The IPPR said councils do not have enough power to raise and spend money locally, particularly on transport, and found that long-term investment in public transport and active travel is ‘lacking’.

Senior IPPR research fellow Maya Singer Hobbs said: ‘Local councillors in our cities and towns generally know that air quality is bad and is leading to avoidable illnesses and deaths.

‘But they feel they are too powerless and penniless to make a meaningful difference, and feel they’ve been abandoned by government.

‘Without more resources and wider support from national government, they won’t be able to take action at the pace and scale required to match the severity of the problem.’

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